Flight of Passage - I could cry!

October 8, 2018, 10:10 PM

Ok ok....I've studied theme park attractions for easily over 30 years. Like many on here, it's an obsession and part of my daily life. I don't have the opportunity to travel often so I enjoy living vicariously through others. So Disney builds a new land based on Pandora...whoop-eh-dee-doo! Like mostly everybody, I write it off as something I really don't care about. So it opens and people report that Flight of Passage is amazing. Yeah yeah....go on...it's a screen based simulator. How original Disney! You've let me down a lot recently and I have lost faith that you are capable of capturing my heart and spirit.

So Thursday is Animal Kingdom day and we've got FP at 3:30 to Flight of Passage. I check in and I'm handed a card that has all these warnings on it. Fear of heights...check! High blood pressure...check! Back and neck problems.....check! Claustrophobic...double check! "If you are uncertain if this flight is right for you, we advise you NOT to fly." Wow...thanks Disney! Scared me right from the get-go! My wife is prone to motion sickness. She reads the card and starts to walk towards the exit. I stand there watching dozens of people passing me by in the FP lane and I get cold feet. I start walking after my wife towards the exit and some wise guy says "you're going the wrong way ladies!" and laughs.

So we reach the FP CM and I start asking a lot of questions about the ride. He tells me if I like Soarin, this is no big deal. OK...I enjoy Soarin, but I don't like the height of Soarin so I often avoid riding it. He says "ask for the low row because it's only 3 STORIES off the ground compared to 4 or 5 stories that the other rows are on! Oh that's MUCH MUCH BETTER!!! ONLY "3" stories in the air!! UGH!

We literally stand there for 10 minutes looking at each other, neither one of us wanting to proceed. Stupid Disney and your stupid warnings! I ignore them on EVERY other attraction you've ever built! Why do I care so much about this one!?!?! The fear of the unknown was overwhelming but at the last minute, I grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the entrance. We requested "the lowest level" and stood there for 10 minutes in line with many other people. We didn't speak. I could feel my heart racing in my neck and that's never a good thing!

We enter the genetic matching room. Everyone is paired with their avatar EXCEPT me! Mine just keeps scrolling through all these different Na'vi with "NO MATCH" displayed for the longest time. I get self conscious and take it as a sign NOT to ride. Suddenly this lovely female Na'vi pops up next to me and tells me she's my match. FINALLY!

We move into the pre-flight briefing room and the CM inside once again says "If you are not sure this flight is for you, you should leave NOW!" I begin to well up with tears. I had never had this kind of anxiety from any theme park attraction in my life. I felt like a scared little 8 year old. My wife looked at me and saw my face, took my hand and asked if I wanted to quietly exit. "NO! I am not going to let a screen based ride intimidate me!"

We move into the ride vehicle chamber and I place my belongings inside the storage bin and climb upon my banshee. The restraints lock around my body and I feel all the blood rush to my feet. The room goes quiet and I look down at the little display that has a picture of me and my avatar getting linked together. I grip the handlebars as tightly as I can. The cover opens and we are transported to the world of Pandora....





NEVER in my life had I been so touched or moved by a theme park attraction!! It wasn't just a ride...it was a spiritual experienced that energized me to my very soul! Disney proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there still is magic in Imagineering! I needed this...I needed this badly to restore my faith in a company that has always been a huge part of my life. This attraction left me without words. And I still cannot truly state what a remarkable feat of engineering it is! It is certainly everything people claim it to be and more.

The moral of this story is simple. You HAVE to ride this attraction! Had I backed out as I had planned to do, I would have missed the most beautiful and amazing attraction Disney ever built. Of course don't put your life in jeopardy for ANY theme park ride but also don't let the warning card intimidate you. While the ride was in progress, not one of those warnings that applied to me bothered me in the least. I didn't feel confined. I didn't feel 3 stories in the air. My neck and back didn't care one bit because my mind was so stimulated, nothing else mattered. It truly is an experience I never imagined possible. Since my first ride on Journey Into Imagination in 1988, this is the one and only time I can say an attraction moved me emotionally and spiritually. A+ Disney! Bravo!

Replies (17)

Edited: October 9, 2018, 7:01 AM

Go Sarah! What a wonderful post. With all of the warning signs and other media your anxiety is understandable. But FOP is far and away the best attraction in Orlando -- if not the U.S. So happy you mustered the courage to enter "the room where it happens."


October 9, 2018, 12:04 PM

Glad you liked it! I don't think the ride is very good at all, but that's why there's chocolate and vanilla!

"But FOP is far and away the best attraction in Orlando"

It's not even close to the best attraction in its' park!

Edited: October 9, 2018, 2:02 PM

Wonderful post, Sarah. Thank you.

FWIW, you are hardly alone in this reaction. When I first rode FoP on its media preview day, I walked into the ride area just as one of the stars of Avatar was stepping off the ride vehicle. And that star was crying, having been overwhelmed by the beauty of the experience. Amazing stuff.

October 9, 2018, 2:19 PM

I'm a pretty big theme park enthusiast and an AP holder to Disney and I am going to agree 100% with Sean. It's not a good ride at all. It is the 2nd weakest ride in Disney's 2nd weakest Orlando theme park. Coincidently the weakest ride is based on the same IP.

October 9, 2018, 2:25 PM

Re-reading Sarah's post I laughed out loud where she wrote: "You HAVE to ride this attraction! Had I backed out as I had planned to do, I would have missed the most beautiful and amazing attraction Disney ever built." Her take on FOP caused me to revisit the reviews and social media posts about this remarkable accomplishment in themed entertainment.

Best attraction EVER!

October 9, 2018, 2:36 PM

I thought the ride was cool. No complaints. But my 8-year-old son exited the ride and said "Is that it?" Not easily impressed, I guess.

Forbidden Journey still tops my favorite list but I'm hoping for good things with the Star Wars attractions still to come.

October 9, 2018, 2:44 PM

My wife was a detractor of Animal Kingdom until our visit in September. She was questioning why we were wasting a day of our ticket. She road Flights of Passage twice (in the standby line) and she has now declared FOP her favorite. It elevated the status of the park for her. She even liked the Navi' River journey (obviously to a lesser degree) which was really a shock to me.

I believe they are more forceful about warning riders due to backlash that they got regarding Mission Space. (I witnessed some heated conversations with cast members back in 2006) 7 years later when I next went on the attraction they had cast members handing out motion sickness warning cards and explaining the difficulty level of the missions. We skip it now. It never really captured our imagination even then. Even by 2006 they already had a more tame version present.

October 9, 2018, 4:38 PM

I can certainly respect many opinions just as movies will affect each of us differently. And I might not always agree with TH, (except I DID visit Disney's fifth gate on Friday...giggles) but he won me over on this one!

I honestly went in expecting not to like it. To some extent, I WANTED not to like it because I thought the entire idea of Pandora was a waste of resources and talent. I had watched every Joe Rohde interview and just couldn't see where his passion was coming from. A complete waste of an IP! But FOP tied that perspective together for me in a way I wasn't prepared for. It caught me off guard and it moved me...what can I say??

October 9, 2018, 5:20 PM

Sarah ... good to hear you enjoyed FofP. The tech required to produce a ride like that makes it worth the visit just to take it all in. I rode it twice and was impressed, I will admit. The ‘breathing’ seat was something unexpected but made the ‘flight’ more believable. Not quite my favorite at DAK, but if and when I go back I’ll be looking to get my Fastpass+ again. I think a lot of how people perceive the ride is all down to if you are an Avatar fan. I am, so it helped me understand the meaning of everything that was going on around me. Enjoy the rest of your stay at Disney ... :)

Edited: October 9, 2018, 5:25 PM

Hell, I might not always agree with TH. That guy is flat out NUTS!

October 21, 2018, 10:56 AM

Wow, that was quite a story.

I think that FOP is so touching is that I think it taps into our most basic instinct of the fantasy of flying. It doesn't matter if you are 10 or 100, everybody has the fantasy of being free to move.

Think about it. We start as babies immobile, but soon we learn to crawl so we do not have to be in the same place if we don't want to. Next comes walking and then driving. We created trains and airplanes to move great distances shorter and we have even blasted to space. All of this gives us the freedom to move forward.

The music, also, fits absolutely perfectly and actually matches what is in the movie, even if you do not realize it. Check out the song "Jake's First Flight". I hear this music and I literally get chills and can feel the wind on my face! What other attraction has ever done this?

October 21, 2018, 11:12 AM

By the way, TH, you are no alone by any stretch of the imagination. I think FOP is the greatest theme park attraction ever made (so far).

Edited: October 25, 2018, 5:47 AM

This just in ... Well, last August: "Walt Disney World's Pandora: The World of Avatar land at Animal Kingdom theme park has some good company on Time Magazine's latest list of the best places on Earth to visit.

The magazine's World's Greatest Places 2018 list named the theme park's new land, which debuted last year, among 100 other must-sees for travelers, as well as places such as the Golden Bridge in Vietnam; cycling through water in Genk, Belgium; Zaryadye Park in Moscow; and other locations that push nature or architecture/design to the limits."

October 27, 2018, 12:41 PM

Strolled through Pandora last night. Absolutely gorgeous! The lines (demand) for FOP has not dissipated since its opening (a year and a half later). Best attraction in Orlando.

Edited: October 29, 2018, 12:40 AM

TH: Time's list (the inaugural) also includes Tivoli Gardens and the newly opened Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. It's important to note that this recognition was in the theme park category. Not being compared to the other places TH listed to try and impress.

Edited: October 29, 2018, 5:04 AM

Respectfully, if you refer back to my post, you'll see some quotation marks. The author of the article (Richard Bilbao - Senior Staff Writer of the Orlando Business Journal) wrote those sentences.


I quoted him word for word and did not list (or compare) FOP to the other places that appear in my post.

Here's his email address if you want to forward your concerns directly to Mr. Bilbao: rbilbao@bizjournals.com.

And here's more from the article: "Here's what Time Magazine had to say about Pandora:

Just as James Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar marked a new level of technological innovation for movies, so too is Pandora: The World of Avatar reinventing the modern theme park. Among its other­worldly attractions: an animatronic character that’s “as lifelike as possible” and a botanical garden that glows with neon after sunset. The park’s flagship is Flight of Passage, a ride that combines 3-D projections and virtual reality to create the illusion that guests are flying atop a living, breathing mountain banshee (a creature that figures prominently in Cameron’s mythical universe). The park says it’s the highest-rated attraction at Walt Disney World, per guest surveys.

Pandora has been recognized by fans and theme park experts alike as raising the bar on theme park design."

October 29, 2018, 5:11 AM

In addition to being listed as one of Time Magazine's best places on Earth to visit, 'Pandora - The World of Avatar and its attraction 'Flight of Passage was the 2017 Associated Builders and Contractors Project of the Year, won the Themed Entainment Association's THEA awards for Theme Park Area Development and best attraction and Theme Park Insider's 2017 Best New Attraction award.

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